ASUS U30Jc: Thin and Light Meets Arrandale

ASUS has been making great strides in the laptop designs over the past couple of years. It used to be that an ASUS laptop meant good performance with generally poor battery life at a reasonable price, but that all started to change with the launch of the original Eee PC. With the Eee PC, ASUS managed to usher in a whole new genre of laptop, the netbook, and with the dawn of the netbook expectations for what a laptop could deliver changed. No longer was it good enough to provide decent performance with little regard for price or battery life; today's laptops need to offer a lot more in order to entice potential customers away for $300 netbooks. To that end, ASUS has reworked the design and features of their U-series and put together a well-rounded package that includes good CPU performance, Optimus graphics, and an aesthetic that makes us think someone is listening to our complaints about glossy plastic laptops.

The Core i3-350M CPU will make for an interesting comparison point against the HP ProBook 5310m, which uses a Core 2 Duo SP9300 (in our review model). That means the two CPUs share the same clock speed, though there are obviously other differences. Optimus 310M graphics will certainly help in the GPU department when you need extra graphics performance, although with the new Intel HD Graphics we would argue that 310M might be a bit too low on the performance scale. We'll see what the 310M can do when we get to gaming benchmarks, but it should come as no surprise that 325M and 335M equipped laptops leave it in the dust. The LCD also remains glossy, along with the LCD bezel, which is unfortunate for a laptop that could very well spend most of the day outside and untethered. Here's a quick look at the full laptop specifications.

ASUS U30Jc-A1 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i3-350M
(32nm, 2x2.26GHz + Hyper-Threading, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066
Max 2x4GB DDR3-1066
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 310M Optimus
Intel HD Graphics
Display 13.3" LED Backlit Color-Shine WXGA (1366x768)
(AU Optronics AUOB133XW01-V0)
Hard Drive 320GB 5400RPM 8MB cache
(Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B HTS545032B9A300)
Optical Drive 8x DVDRW Super Multi
(Matshita DVD-RAM UJ890AS)
Networking Atheros AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 802.11bgn
Audio HD Audio (2 speakers with combo headphone/mic jack)
Battery 8-cell 5600mAh, 84Wh
Front Side Flash Reader (SD, MMC, MS/Pro)
Speaker grilles
Left Side Headphone and Microphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
Cooling Exhaust
Kensington Lock
Right Side DVDRW
1 x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Back Side None
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.12" x 9.52" x 0.80-1.20" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.80 lbs (with 8-cell battery)
Extras 0.3MP Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Multitouch Touchpad
SD/MMC/MS Pro Flash reader
Warranty 2-year global warranty
1-year battery warranty
30-day LCD Zero Bright Dot guarantee
Pricing Online starting at ~$900

All of the above features are standard fare for this price range, with a few omissions that may or may not matter depending on your needs. ASUS lists Bluetooth support as "optional" on their site, but at present there are no plans for a Bluetooth equipped model in the North America market; the same goes for a 6-cell 63Wh battery version. eSATA and FireWire are also missing, and there's no USB 3.0 either. If you like using a variety of external devices with the above interfaces, you're out of luck, and there's no ExpressCard slot to alleviate the pain. Dustin tends to place a higher weight on such connectivity options, while personally the omissions are only a minor concern.

The Arrandale CPU is of the i3 variety, which means slightly lower clock speeds and no Turbo Boost (as opposed to the i5 processors). Like all current Arrandale processors, there's a limit of 8GB RAM, which the U30Jc fully supports if you want to spend the money to upgrade. Unlike the previous generation UL30Vt, the U30Jc adds an optical drive and weighs about one pound more, but performance (outside of gaming) will be quite a bit higher.

Why is gaming performance an exception? Because the GeForce 310M is really no different from the 210M. It has a 625MHz core clock and 1530MHz shader clock with 790MHz (1580MHz effective) memory. In contrast, the GeForce 210M (in the UL80Vt) has a 606MHz core clock, 1468MHz shader clock, and the same 790MHz RAM clock. Technically the 310M would be up to 4% faster, but that's hardly worth worrying about. We would have loved to see a GT325M or GT335M in the U30Jc, as that's the only area preventing this from being an Alienware M11x killer. And speaking of the M11x, we should also note that Dell has new beta drivers out, version 179.12, which addresses (for the time being) our concern with outdated GPU drivers. The long-term driver support prospect is still far better for Optimus laptops, but in general the M11x remains the superior small gaming laptop.

Taken as a complete package, the U30Jc has a lot of good features. The LCD quality is still mediocre (i.e. low contrast like 99% of consumer laptops), but with a large 8-cell battery you can expect up to nine hours of battery life (about eight hours of Internet surfing). We understand there's a CULV version of the U30Jc coming, the UL30Jc, but the CPU will be far slower (even with Turbo Boost), and we've heard that it will only increase battery life by around one hour at best. We would rate the current U30Jc as being equal to or superior to the old UL series of laptops in every important metric (outside of battery life where the old CULV design could last up to 14 hours). Build quality is better, the aluminum surfaces are a great upgrade, and the Arrandale CPU makes this a fast system when you need it. If you don't need a beefier GPU and you're okay with the size (about one pound heavier than most ultraportables), the U30Jc is an excellent laptop.

ASUS U30Jc Design and Build
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    I'll try running that once as a reference point. Is there a way to loop a PowerPoint slide? I'm guessing that's what you mean: external display, PowerPoint, and battery power right?
  • Furuno - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    Yes. And for looping the slide, you can set it by going to the Slide Show menu and pressing the Set Up Slide Show Button, and there's should be a loop continuosly checkbox in the dialogue box. Oh, and you'll need to adjust the Advance Slide option under Transition Menu.

    Best regards,
  • MacGyver85 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Excellent article, thanks for the thorough and honest review.

    The only thing that keeps me away from buying these (or any) laptops is the abysmal display quality.
    Maybe you guys could literally set the bar for the manufacturers ?!
    You could add bars to the display graphs that would say: abysmal, decent, good, industry leading quality or something similar.
    That way we'd see at a glimpse what is worth buying and what is not in this category.
    Hopefully it will encourage more manufacturers to give higher priority to a good panel instead of those extra few percentages of processor performance.
  • Setsunayaki - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    4 hours of DVD playback time isn't so bad, though the idle state gives us a 550 minute battery life.

    The important thing with a laptop, which is being challenged lately by the latest cell phones is application speed.

    An example:

    Task: Taking an image on site and sending it to all your friends.

    I used to use laptops for this, way before cell phones had cameras....I used to take a picture on a digital camera, then upload them to my laptop by USB. I then would have to find some Wireless Network out there...or Wired Connection to deal with the internet...and then send an email to everyone with Attachment. This takes forever on a laptop....

    Today I can just get to the site or target location.....I can sneak around and take an image with a phone....and then I can use the 3G coverage of an area and send an email with that attachment to everyone to everyone in my list...All in the time it takes for a laptop to start up and set up.

    The more laptops try to take the role of mobile-desktops, the farther they will drift from the concepts of what mobility (and stealth) brings to the table, and the slower they will become each generation against cell phones.

    There is a reason why more people today buy an iPhone or GooglePhone these days....

    Specially the idea that voice recognition software is becoming more and more common....Its fun to be able to say something and have it record a note, or dial a number....

    I can say "I need to buy eggs and bread" and walk into a store and play it back.....than having to type it.

    The more they try to make a laptop into a mobile-desktop, the more mobility it actually loses and the slower it becomes vs the cell phone craze...Yes, its amazing how a $3000 laptop doesnt hold a candle to the speed one can do things on the IPhones and other Phones out there that compete against it.
  • T2k - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Seriously: LIGHT at almost 5lbs?
    I hope Asus paid a lot for this piece - it would be awful to realize you just made a complete fool of yourself publicly for chump change...
  • Alexo - Saturday, July 10, 2010 - link

    Can you get your hands on a PL30JT?
    Supposed to have an i5 processor and a matte screen, maybe a little better battery life as well.

    I would love for you to review it (or even a quick comparison with the U30JC).

  • mrmbmh - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    very very useful article for me!
    I've found Vaio S Series a good competitor against this laptop...same weight...same processor...same graphic chip... but there are a few articles about S series.. and seriously... This website is one of the few websites I can trust :)
    So can you read an article about S series? I love U30jc but as you mentioned it has a poor screen... I think vaio makes better displays...
    thanks anyway...

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